13 Aug

Time For Athletics To Join Tech Revolution

Brad Guzan

If like me, you have been enjoying the athletics at the European Championships, you are probably a committed fan of the sport (writes Chris Broadbent).

I have always had a particular fondness for the Euros with great memories of the likes of Coe, Cram and McKean and latterly athletes like Farah, Thompson and Vernon. The move to combine different sports to make it multi-sport, Olympic-style event – albeit across two distant venues in Glasgow and Berlin - has been a positive move and enhances its status.

But I still can’t help but think that in championships athletics, the sport still falls well short of its potential as a viewing spectacle. The presentation of the sport has not really moved on at all in the last 20 -30 years.

Despite huge advances in technology, the experience as a spectator or television viewer is really not that much different.

Selfishly, I still enjoy the experience as it is, but I can’t help but wonder what younger generations really make of it, in comparison to some of the technological innovations we see in other sports.

Eden Hazard’s augmented reality interview on Belgian TV during the World Cup where a hologram of him appeared alongside the studio presenters is one such example. So, too, was the recent interview with goalkeeper Brad Guzan (pictured) who wore a mic during the All-Stars Major League Soccer game in the USA, allowing the commentators to quiz him during the game.

There was another hugely innovative presentation on Danish TV from the recent Tour de France which uses virtual reality to articulate team formation tactics in windy conditions.

Where are the big innovations in athletics? The sport has so much more insight to offer the viewer yet it chooses its safe, traditional path. I winced when I heard IAAF president Seb Coe’s suggestion in April at the Commonwealth Games to revert the 1500m to the mile distance.

It’s the type of change that is more likely to resonate with those harking back to a colonial pre-decimalised past. But what does it mean to young people and the digital world they inhabit. Absolutely nothing, I suspect.

Athletics needs to modernise quickly or it will get left behind. It cannot survive on the nostalgic loyalty of the likes of hardcore fans like me forever. Can’t we be experimenting with interviewing athletes during competitions offering real insight in the heat of competition? Isn’t it time that cameras were embedded into the equipment, like the hammer, a hurdle or baton? What is the real effect of wind readings? What would that long jump have been with a zero wind? What's the respective heart-rates of the athletes in the 10,000m?

All the above are surely possible. Top level athletes are at the cutting edge of human performance, shouldn’t the presentation of the sport also be at the cutting edge?